This is a poem that came out of a number of things. I think it makes sense without the explanation, but I also think the explanation is interesting in its own right, so here we go. The content for this poem came out of two lunatic walking expeditions, one which took me over, the other under a motorway. In both cases, the increasing impact of the motorway sound on what else I could hear was quite a distressing experience, and on one walk produced a great sense of horror in my son. Most people only get near motorways when driving on them, which reduces this horror considerably. To stand in a field and hear it roar, is a whole other thing, and not pleasant at all.
Thing number two was an article about how you can hear the absences in ecosystems, and that any listening orientated science is hearing the hush descending on the non-human word. A deathly hush of absence.
Thing number three is Miserable Poet’s Cafe, which I went to last night and for which I needed material. This is the one I did not end up reading – there is a glimmer of hope at the end – and there wasn’t time. Still, I did win a bottle of very cheap wine.
Allow me to render you unquiet, and unhappy
For there are uneasy truths I would inflict
Of deathly silence falling on ecosystems
No dawn chorus but a quiet straggle.
I invite you to be glum, to despair.
Have you heard the fox at midnight?
No wolf will howl for you, not on this shore.
Have you heard the haunting crane call?
Or the bittern boom at the edge of viability?
Owls and orcas, nightingale and narwal
Passing into myth on our watch
For future generations to place beside unicorns.
Have you heard the roar of motorway
The ever busy sound wound carving
Its angry self into land and air,
Always hungry, raging over miles to eat up
The subtle songs of hedgerow dwellers.
Have you heard the fevered squeal of late night
Just having a laugh at 80 would be racers
Thunder of aircraft tearing the sky, the insidious whir
Of fans, coolers, air conditioning, the sound
Of life being stolen from the future,
One loud pluck at a time.
I invite you to hear the ruined world song
Only in grief will there be hope.
(*and yes, I know there are people trying to reintroduce wolves to the UK, but I’ve never heard one here and most of us never will.)